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The President's Panel on Mental Retardation (PPMR) did bring public attention to the important contribution that people labeled mentally retarded could bring to the community.

The preparation of the mentally retarded for a useful role in society and industry must receive more attention. In the past 5 years the number of mentally retarded rehabilitated through State vocational agencies has more than tripled – going from 756 to 2,500 – but in terms of potential, it is little more than a gesture.

It is important to remember that in 1962 "rehabilitated" could, and often did, mean placement in a sheltered workshop. It was not until the year 2000 that extended employment (that is, work activity center or sheltered workshop placements) would not be considered an appropriate outcome of vocational rehabilitation. Nevertheless, the PPMR did make a strong case for people getting real jobs with regular employers.

Men in a building

The PPMR also recognized the economic implications of people getting real jobs and real incomes.

The economic value of vocational rehabilitation for the retarded is clearly demonstrable. A study of 1,578 mental retardates who were rehabilitated in 1958 estimated that their total annual earnings rose from $70,000 before rehabilitation to $2.5 million after rehabilitation.

Woman and crafts
Photo courtesy William Bronston, M.D
People working at a table